DOPs launch campaign for greater screen industry diversity

Twenty-seven of Australia’s top cinematographers last night launched a social media campaign aimed at boosting the number of women employed in camera teams and, more broadly, encouraging greater diversity across the screen industry.

Using the hashtag #whoisinyourcrew, the six-week campaign is designed to reach all heads of department as well as directors and producers.

The initiative was conceived by DOP Bonnie Elliott on behalf of the Australian Cinematographers Society’s Diversity Committee, the reconfigured ACS Women’s Advisory Panel.

Appointed to Screen Australia’s Gender Matters task force this year, Elliott has led the way by maintaining gender equity across her own camera teams for the last four years.

“I am keen to empower my fellow cinematographers to help make change in the industry through their hiring practices,” says Elliott, whose recent credits include Stateless, The Furnace, Palm Beach, The Hunting, H is for Happiness and Daina Reid’s upcoming Run Rabbit Run.

“There is a great deal to be done in terms of making our camera crews look more like the world we live in. I hope the campaign empowers people to feel able to get involved on a personal level.

“If you look at what the Gender Matters funding has done for female film filmmakers, that has not trickled down to those who work below-the-line.”

Elliott cites sobering statistics which reinforce the under-representation of women in her profession.

Within the ACS there are 16 accredited women out of 279 accredited members who are still active, which equates to under 6 per cent.

Of 676 cinematographers, 41 or 6 per cent are female. Among 296 camera crew, 50 or 17 per cent are female. The ratio is higher among student members: 29 of 109, or nearly 27 per cent.

For Screen Australia funded productions between 2016-19, 13 of the 166 features were shot by female DOPs (7 per cent), and 29 of the 253 drama series were shot by female DOPs (11 per cent).

The cinematographers participating in the campaign, for which Caitlin Yeo composed the music, range from veterans like the retired Russell Boyd to those in the early stages of their careers like Lucas Tomoana.

Bonnie Elliott (R) with focus puller Nillis Finne and clapper loader Danielle Payne (Photo credit: Gunter Hang).

Boyd said: “I feel strongly that cinematographers have the golden opportunity to make the numbers more equal around the camera. Of course that should extend to minorities of any race or persuasion.”

Nicola Daley declared: “People always say to me ‘well it should be a meritocracy’ and I always agree and point out that right now it is far from it.”

Dylan River: “Our department should represent the authentic diverse world we live in as it will be reflected in the world we create.”

Kathryn Milliss: “A committed individual can make a profound impact towards equity. Geoff Burton’s decision to mentor and hire women launched the career of several cinematographers including my own.”

Elliott credits Martha Ansara for teaching her how to load a 16mm camera when she was training to be a camera assistant at UTS and later her AFTRS teachers Jan Kenny and Erika Addis.

During her years as an assistant she worked with DOPs Carolyn Constantine, Justine Kerrigan, Jackie Farkas and Cordelia Beresford.

Among the men to whom she is grateful, Kim Batterham is a long-time friend and mentor and she got her first break on features as a clapper loader for Allan Collins on Ivan Sen’s Beneath Clouds.

Her first camera attachment was with Joe Pickering on Heartbreak High while Andy Commis and John Brawley helped her move into TV drama by giving her second unit work on such dramas as The Slap and Puberty Blues.

She concludes: “The numbers of cinematographers working in Australia who are female, Indigenous or People of Colour needs to improve. And not just DOPs, but the people working in their teams.”

Signatories: Eric Murray Lui, John Brawley, Dylan River, Tania Lambert ACS, Marden Dean ACS, Nicola Daley ACS, Russell Boyd ACS ASC, Martin McGrath ACS, Matthew Chuang ACS, Lucas Tomoana, Bruce Young ACS, Kathryn Milliss, Warwick Thornton, Kim Batterham ACS, Bonnie Elliott ACS, Michael Latham, Roger Lanser ACS, Geoffrey Hall ACS, Carolyn Constantine ACS, Craig Barden ACS, John Stokes ACS, Katie Milwright ACS, Kathy Chambers ACS, Tony Luu, Erika Addis, Anna Howard ACS, Andrew Commis ACS.

  1. As a DOP of 40 years experience, I am sad to see this field captured by post modernist gender politics and feminism. Women have always been welcome in the industry. The notion that men have held them back is rubbish and an insult to the vast majority of good hearted men.

    Like all fields that are technical, men are simply more inclined than women towards them. Like all fields that are people orientated, women are more inclined towards them. It is their CHOICE.

    When are the feminists going to advocate for gender equity in teaching where there is hardly a male to be found now? When are they going to advocate for gender equity in high voltage linework or deap sea fishing or any work that is dirty or dangerous or just damn uncomfortable where men dominate?

    The film industry was an amazing place where skills and work ethic triumphed over race, gender or anything else. Now it is becoming captured by leftist feminists who are not capable of great work and will blame men for the decline.

    1. Maybe Gavan should take a step back and realise that it’s only because he can speak from a privileged position to be able to make such an ignorant comment.

      It’s entirely embarrassing to our industry that the participation rate of women and diversity in general is so low compared to almost any other field.

      Even more humiliating for us as cinematographers is that as heads of department it’s even lower still. It’s not enough to have a few diverse 2nd ACs. They need to be running the place.

      That is a failure full stop. We should all be taking responsibility for that failure and doing something about it.

      Gavan feels threatened I assume by the fabulous amazing diversity that’s coming through in a tsunami of talent that has always struggled to have the same opportunity he’s had, that have had to overcome more than just the usual struggles of a freelance and creative career choice such as ours.

      Embrace it Gavan, or you’re going to be left behind.

      John Brawley.

  2. I can’t help but wonder if Gavan O’Sullivan is a lefty feminist in disguise as the position put under his name is so preposterous as to be unlikely. However, if he is a real person and genuine, I hope he will take the opportunity to see some of the work of the women mentioned in this article. He might change his mind. I’m sure that regardless of his views he’d be welcome to join the Australian Cinematographers Society where there is free discussion about many matters — primarily artistic and technical, but also social and philosophical. The ACS is at heart a caring, sharing lot beneath that veneer ofr excellence!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *